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My Transamerica Trail Adventure

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I'm simulcasting this on advrider and ktmtalk, but I thought some people here would be interested as well :thumbsup:

Day (-4)


Charlotte, NC

Man, so many things have been going on lately in preparation for this trip, I don’t even know where to start. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t have time to write this if I wasn’t stuck in my work cell (cubicle) until 5~6pm. (Being very productive aren’t I?) But anyway, I’ll start from my 2-wheeled beginning…

G-Forces have always thrilled me. So naturally, I was drooling over super sport bikes throughout my teens (around the 90’s). The parents were having none of it. And for good reason. They knew I had the daredevil streak, and knowing what I know now, 18 years old + 1996 GSXR = Bad News. They were right, but my desire for “the ride” never waivered, maybe I have a motorcycle gene?

Yes, I probably do. Not too long ago my mother shared a picture with me of my biological father’s 1962 Sears Allstate Puch:


He was killed in a hunting accident in 1981 when I was 3, so I never got to know him and was never influenced by him, but from what I gather, I think he passed down my adventurous and independent tendencies.

Fast forward to 1996 (18 years old, 10ft tall, bulletproof), my buddy Jim spotted a 1970-something RD350 that “ran” in the local classifieds for $100. We travel 1.5 hours to find out that it doesn’t run, so Jim scores it for $75, we spray some ether in there and nearly blow the thing up after a few kicks. She was stuck at redline for what seemed like a minute while we were fumbling around trying to get it stopped. I think Jim ended up shorting out the plug with a screw driver. We end up running it up and down the road for a few days before one of the plugs kept fouling up. The first bike I ever rode. I’m now hooked again.

But... still under the parents’ domain for the next few years, my own motorcycle would go un-purchased for the next 10 years.

It wasn’t until 2 years ago that I moved to another software development job and it seemed like everyone there rode. Feeling left out, I felt it was time for me to purchase what I’ve always wanted, a sport bike. Not knowing anything about motorcycling other than what I’ve seen and heard from a bunch of other newbs, I went looking for a Ducati, but ended up bringing back a much cheaper 06 SV650:


My first bike. Not that I knew what I was doing, but this turned out to be the perfect bike for me, it’s a total blast to ride around town on. For 28 years I had always dreamed of riding, now I couldn't get enough.

Case in point, several months after I purchase my street bike, I get a call from none other than Jim:


“Yo Nick, heading up your way to Brushy Mountain to do a little dirt bike riding, you interested?” “Heck yeah”. In less than 24 hours, I had purchased a 2003 RM125 (didn’t know what I was doing then either), a helmet, goggles, a pair of gloves and was on my way to Brushy. Not exactly the place to learn how to ride dirt (especially since I had only been riding street for a few months beforehand). A few little wrecks failed to dampen my spirit and I made it out in one piece.

It was soon obvious that I had picked the wrong bike for my 6’1” 210 frame. “Yo Jim, what bike should I get”. “WR450F”. “OK”. Bye, bye RM, hello 2006 WR450F:


A quick suspension upgrade from Factory Connection and the WR was ripping the trails up like nobody’s business (well, from my perspective anyway). Not so much on the motocross track though:


Yes, it may not look bad until you realize that my hand isn’t exactly lined up properly with my arm. A bungled attempt over a double jump less than a year ago didn't even put me back on 4 wheels. Yes, I’ve got the bug and probably a little ignorant too.

But anyway, the wrist healed up nicely and it’s now reinforced with a titanium plate and 7 screws. Back to riding!

Having an SV650 had me trolling the svrider.com forums. It was there that I stumbled across DonnieJ’s solo adventure cross country (also posted here):

DonnieJ's RR

After reading the whole report, it wasn’t a question of if I was going to do something similar, it was just a question of when. When will be this Friday July 4th, Independence day. I decided on this date back in January and started to make my preparations.

First up was the bike. The street-legal EXC’s had just come out and I determined that this was the bike I was going to take. (In hindsight, I probably could have picked something better for the road, but I fell in love with the EXC and really didn’t spend any time considering other options):


You can view my trip planning threadhere

I’ve also set up a blog here. I’ve been making some posts there already if you want to get up to speed.

My plan is to try to produce my ride reports on the fly. But I’ll be camping out as much as po$$ible which will probably not help me punch out “live” reports. But I’ll post what I can, when I can and will probably embellish on my posts when I get back home. You'll have to bear with me, I've only been riding for 2 years and this is my first major ride report!

For now though, I have my hands full with the bike. One thing I forgot to plan for was my suspension settings. I’m already 210 lbs (40 lbs over what the factory sets the EXC up for), carry 4 more gallons of fuel than the stock tank and my luggage is 50 lbs. I sat on the bike yesterday and found out quickly that I’m nearly bottoming out just by sitting on it. So, I ordered some stiffer springs from Factory Connection today and will receive shipment Wednesday. I've got a guy about an hour away that is going to help me do the install. Keep your fingers crossed for me that nothing goes wrong there.

One other thing that causing alot of anxiety is the engine. Like a total retard, I plugged the hose from my crankcase to the carb thinking this would solve some backfiring issues I've been having on decel. Wrong! What it did was blow my valve cover gasket! Oil was spewing everywhere, luckily I was at home and found a gasket online to replace the bad one. My fear is that I may have compromised the piston rings. I'll be running a compression test soon, so keep your fingers crossed for me there too.

Needless to say, I’ll be very busy the next few days with last minute preparations, so I better stop writing and starting getting ready but there's one more thought that I'd like to share before closing my first post...

I get a lot of different expressions when I tell people what I'm about to do.

1. Some think it's the coolest thing ever

2. Some people pause and then look at me funny and think, "what a fool"

3. Some people don't give a rip (maybe because they've done so many cooler things, I dunno)

4. There's my 77 year old neighbor who I think still doesn't understand what I'm trying to do :gerg (he thinks the internet is useless, so I doubt I have to worry about him reading this:rofl)

5. And then there's expressions of my own, I went from highly excited to-> "man, this is expensive!" to-> completely overwhelmed to-> being lazy (status quo) to-> being really concerned about my future and now-> an equally proportional mixture of all of the former (basketcase :jump )

Stay tuned...

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Day 0

Charlotte, NC

I treated today like I was going to be on the trail. Waking up early, packing my gear, going places, taking pictures, downloading pictures/GPS data, and finally writing a blog entry. The only difference: I’d be traveling in a big circle… in my Jeep, boring. But, one destination I had on my itinerary turned out to be interesting. I took my camera, but unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures. Having a camera on you where pictures are normally not taken is like a milder version of having a gun on your hip anywhere outside of Iraq and Afghanistan. It grabs attention and people wonder if you’re going to actually shoot it. I didn’t actually have the camera on my person today, but I will have to start practicing… and shooting :thumbsup:

Anyway, the interesting destination was Bruce’s Suspension (www.brucessuspension.com). Bruce lives on High Rock Lake; big, beautiful and wet... Bruce is smaller, not as beautiful (just kiddin’ Bruce) and has a very dry sense of humor (at least I thought it was humor, it may have been him wanting to wring my neck for trying to roll my Orangutan in there through the small door rather than the big door, sorry Bruce). But anyway, Bruce did exactly what I asked him to do and got the job done in 47 minutes flat and I think he only used a slightly more energy today replacing my springs than he used putting his hat on this morning. Bruce is goldmine full of suspension knowledge. If you live anywhere near Salisbury, you’re missing out if you’re not using his services.

So now I’m much more comfortable with my suspension. After loading all my gear up again, I decided to poke around the neighborhood to test it out. 10x better, but I felt like I could add a little more pre-load since my sag was slightly off spec. Not wanting to booger my shock up with my inappropriate tool, I ventured down to the nearest motorcycle shop on my bike to see if they could squeeze me in. I was sure a story of my planned adventure would put me at the front of the line…uhhh, no.

In Charlotte, from my perspective, there are about 3 major motorcycle dealer/shops (I have yet to find a smaller shop, let me know if one exists) and 2 types of riders. The $40k, chromed out, stretched, bling-bling guy and the weekend Harley-Davidson, Jap cruiser guy. Dual-sport enduro riders are SOL. My little sob story made no movement with the little service girl (who knew absolutely nothing about what I was saying) or the parts guy. I needled the parts guy into asking the mechanics if they had a spanner that I could borrow, but apparently, at this shop, they use channel-locks to adjust pre-loads on their shocks! LOL. They obviously have a spanner, just not one for the KTM guy.

Oh well, I’ll do what I can with a screwdriver and some duct tape tonight and just live with it on the road, it’s much better than it was before anyway.

Tonight will consist of changing oil, lubing the chain, checking tire pressure and adding a few more waypoints to the GPS. Here is the Orangutan all loaded up:


And, in case you were wondering, here are the maps and roll charts compressed down as far as I could get them:


After some debate with myself, I decided not to take these with me. That’s what I have the GPS for and if it fails (it is only hardware and software, you know) then I’ll have to use my trusty compass, point it west and just look for dirt!

As for the present moment, I’ve got the jitters and the feeling like I forgot something. If I smoked, I’d be smoking. But I guess I’ll just have to stick to pulling my hair out and walking around in circles…

I’ll be using my SPOT device tomorrow, but can’t guarantee a ride report, I’ll post it when I can… cya.

(I’m using a Word template to write these Journal Entries and will try to update this footer information each day. I’ll try to capture something each of my five senses to try to give you “feel” for what’s going on)

Total mileage: 0

Daily mileage: 118.1

Wildlife observed: Just a few city birds

Favorite Sight: A KTM 690? pulling a nice wheelie and then the little old lady honking her horn at him even though they were traveling opposite directions. Heh heh.

Favorite Scent: Gaelic Ale from Moosehead

Favorite Sound: That KTM 690’s exhaust note

Favorite Taste: Spinach Salad from Moosehead

Favorite Feel: My new springs

Ailments: Tweaked knees and ankle from riding a few weeks ago, nothing serious, but they could flame up tomorrow with the long ride. Itchy spot on my back, if it’s poison ivy…I’m in trouble.

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I wish you the best of luck. Looking forward to following your ride.


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Hope you packed some monkey butt powder. Good luck. :thumbsup:

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Have fun and I wish you good fortune.

However, I think it now wise to solely rely on a GPS. They are a good addition to maps but IMO can not totally replace them.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Day 4 (partial report)

Sardis, MS

It didn’t take long to learn lesson #1. Don’t plan too much for your vacation or it won’t feel like vacation. Live updates would be really cool, but I also want to camp out when it’s convenient. Live updates and camping don’t mix well. Days 1, 2 and 3 were all very convenient for camping, so I took full advantage. It was nice to sit back and soak in the camping experience with others rather than fumbling around in a motel room writing live updates (which is what I’m actually doing now, but I’ll fill you in on that decision in the full reports). Scraping the live update idea also buys me at least a couple hours a day that can be used to mend myself and the bike; very important for a newbie traveler like myself.

For right now, the plan is to stick solely to the title of this trip (30 years old, 2 wheels, 1 man and 1 goal) with the goal being, making it to the west coast on 2 wheels. Uncertainties abound…

Here are a few pics to whet your appetite:

Day 1:


Day 2:


Day 3:


Day 4:


Did I stay dry? Hmmm…

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:p Thanks for the update :thumbsup: Enjoy the ride, I'm sure we'll still be around to read your ride report after you're done :cry:

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Just curious; why'd you drop the bash plate (day 3)?

Would appreciate location info (text or captions) on the images, if possible.

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So much for clean dry clothes... They are over rated anyway:banghead:

Tell us where you are at when you post!

Have fun

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Looks like fun.

Rode the trail through Arkansas this May.

Great vacation, but did get a little tiring because most of the roads were loose gravel so you really had to pay attention to your riding at all times.

I hope you survive the monkey butt.

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Excuse my lack of KTM knowledge but is that a 2008 530 exc-r? or a 690? Thanks!

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Excellent pictures: what are you shooting with?

And... what's going on in your head during this ride? Looks like a cool solo adventure, and solo trips are my favorite kind.

Tally Ho!


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